On June 7 and 8, Laurent Bibard, professor of management and philosophy, went to a conference held in the European Parliament dedicated to the philosopher Alexandre Kojève (1902 – 1968). The ESSEC Research Center supported the event and ESSEC Business School was one of its most significant partners.
Alexandre Kojève was one of the most important philosophers of the 2Oth Century. Yet he published little during his lifetime and left us with thousands of unpublished pages when he died. In describing his life, we may briefly refer to three of his main accomplishments. He was the first to introduce the thought of the German philosopher Hegel in France, becoming extremely famous for doing so; among his students could be found the names of Raymond Aron, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Georges Batailles, Jacques Lacan, etc. Secondly; Kojève was a “résistant” during the Second World War, and thirdly, from 1945 until 1968, he was a civil servant at the French DREE (Direction des Relations Economiques Extérieures) where he contributed substantially to the construction of the European Economic Community and to the GATT agreements. In other words, Kojève was more than an important intellectual, he was also one of the most influential actors in the construction of modern Europe; he was known to be a formidable negotiator.
ESSEC Business School has always been deeply rooted in the legacy of European humanism. It would probably be more accurate to talk about European culture. European culture is made up of two fundamental traditions: religion, which was originally Jewish, and philosophy, whose most complete expression lies in ancient Greek culture. Christianity and Islam are grounded in the existing tension between Jewish and Greek cultures.
It is the role of philosophy to facilitate an understanding of these roots, Christianity and Islam being a part of them, as well as of our own contemporary culture. This is what Kojève did as a philosopher: he offered an extremely useful and important understanding of the European and Western past. He did not do it for the past; on the contrary, he did it to favor the best possible action for the future. He wanted to make Europe strong enough to remain – or to become again – one of the most important global actors. In writing about the geopolitical role of Europe as particularly related to North Africa, and in committing to the construction of a real European Community, this is exactly what Kojève did. We all know that Europe is now facing to a certain extent its destiny: immigrants questioning the very ancient European welcoming tradition, the deployment of Christianity being deeply challenged by one of the most important religious alternatives nowadays – Islam. In this same context, Europe is supposed to make its position clear on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it is supposed to resist the invading Chinese culture regarded as the threatening modern alternative to the US culture.
This is the reason why ESSEC Business School plays a major role as a leader in considering business in society. The school has never set the limit of its educational mission, both undergraduate and postgraduate, to just giving students the tools. ESSEC Business School has always considered its duty and task to offer them the means to understand the major social, economic and political issues through the examination of “the whole picture”. We know at ESSEC that when people are exclusively short-term oriented, without the capacity to “take a step back” and understand the whole picture formed by their deeds, speeches, and thoughts, they will fail – not only ethically, but also economically. People constantly need to learn to step back, to raise the right problems at the right moment and in the right place. This is what we try to offer at ESSEC: as complete and thorough an education to our students and Executive participants as possible. In point of fact, they all demand such a learning experience.
I hold PhDs in both Management and Philosophy. Furthermore, I have always been convinced of the need to acquire the agility to immediately perform and deliver (in the short-term) while questioning things simultaneously in the long-term. My intention is to contribute as best as I can to this double objective, which remains one of the most significant and demanding managerial tensions in organizational life. Kojève constantly put into practice his theoretical understanding of the “whole picture”. Therefore, my work on Kojève’s thought and action has contributed a great deal to this perspective. Being able to study his work, to learn from his relationships with other major philosophers of his time (significantly, Leo Strauss, 1899 – 1974) and from his concrete social action has been incredibly rewarding, both humanly and technically.
As ESSEC Business School desires to offer its students and participants a serious humanist grounding for business efficiency, it was of high importance that I went and spoke at the conference on Kojève held in Brussels at the beginning of June 2018. I was deeply honored to represent ESSEC there with two talks focused on empowerment and gender.
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Find out more: www.europekojeve2018.eu